US drone attacks kill 29 in eastern Somalia [PressTV]

US assassination drone strikes have claimed the lives of at least 29 people in eastern Somalia, Press TV has learned.

A US assassination drone. (File Photo)

Dozens more have been injured in the attacks in the eastern town of Balad.

The attacks reportedly destroyed at least three al-Shabab militant bases. This comes a day after African Union and Somali troops captured Balad.

US assassination drones attacked the militants’ Harweyne training base in Elasha Biyaha on the outskirts of Mogadishu on Friday, leaving at least 39 dead.

Washington has carried out assassination attacks using the unmanned aircraft in other countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, and Yemen. 

The United States claims the CIA-run strikes are aimed at militants. But witness reports and figures offered by local authorities indicate the attacks are taking a heavy toll on civilians.

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The insects are watching: the future of government surveillance

In June of 2011, the US military admitted to having drone technology so sophisticated that it could be the size of a bug.

In what is referred to as the “microaviary” on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, drones are in development and design to replicate the flight patterns of moths, hawks and other air-borne creatures of the natural world.

Greg Parker, aerospace engineer, explains: “We’re looking at how you hide in plain sight” for the purpose of carrying out espionage or kill missions.

Cessna-sized Predator drones, used to carry out unmanned attacks, are known around the world. The US Pentagon has an estimated 7,000 aerial drones in their arsenal.

In 2011, the Pentagon requested $5 billion for drones from Congress by the year 2030.

Their investigative technology is now moving toward “spy flies” equipped with sensors and mircocameras to detect enemies and nuclear weapons.

Parker is using helicopter technology to allow his computer-driven drone “dragonflies” to become precise intelligence gathering weapons.

To have a computer do it 100 per cent of the time, and to do it with winds, and to do it when it doesn’t really know where the vehicle is, those are the kinds of technologies that we’re trying to develop.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has unveiled hummingbird drones that can fly at speeds of 11 miles per hour.

DARPA is also inserting computer chips into moth pupae in the hopes of hatching “cyborg moths”.

Within DARPA is the Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems project (HIMEM), whose aim is to develop shutterbugs – insects with cameras attached to their very nervous system that can be controlled remotely. Under HIMEM, there are researchers working on cyborg beetles.Other institutions are hard at work for the US government, developing more insect technology.

The California Institute of Technology has created a “mircobat ornithopter” that flies and fits comfortably in the palm of your hand.

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Pakistani PM: Obama using drone strikes for political gains [presstv.ir]

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said on Sunday that U.S. President Barack Obama is using drone strikes in Pakistan tribal regions for political motives.

Gilani’s statement came a day after U.S. President Barack Obama reportedly ordered a “sharp increase” in drone strikes in Pakistan ‘s tribal areas in recent months.

“The United States is into the election year and (President) Obama’s decision has been aimed at gaining political mileage,” Gilani said when a reporter asked him at his press conference in the eastern city of Lahore.

The U.S. officials were quoted as saying that Obama’s decision to increase drone attacks reflected the “mounting U.S. frustration with Pakistan over a growing list of disputes”.

On Thursday, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stated in Kabul that the United States was running out of patience with Pakistan. He alleged that the country was being used as a safe haven by insurgents from neighboring Afghanistan. A day earlier he had stated in New Delhi that the United States will continue drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal regions.

Pakistan, on Saturday, rejected Panetta’s statements and said that he was “oversimplifying some of the very complex issues we are dealing with in our efforts against extremism and terrorism”. Xinhua   

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28% of Federal Contract Funds Go to Just 10 Companies…All Make Weapons Systems [allgov.com]

 

If this is the age of budget cutbacks and government austerity, someone ought to tell the Pentagon and its weapons contractors, because they haven’t gotten the memo about shared sacrifice. According to a summary of the top federal contractors produced by the Federal Procurement Data System, the Defense Department gave out $372.8 billion (70%) of the $532.6 billion in government contract spending in fiscal year 2011, with just 10 arms makers accounting for 28% of all contracting dollars, up from 25% a year before, and the top 5 accounting for 20.8%.
This top heavy pattern, in which companies that have fattened themselves for years on the government teat push and shove to crowd out the runts, is even more egregious when one examines the top five providers of military hardware. Lockheed-Martin, which has been the largest government contractor every year since 1995, collected $42.9 billion, an increase of $7.1 billion over 2010 and almost double the haul of Boeing ($22.1 billion), and far ahead of General Dynamics ($19 billion), Raytheon ($14.4 billion) and Northrop Grumman($12.8 billion). Put another way, Lockheed-Martin got 11.5% of defense contract dollars and 8% of all contract funds. Boeing also saw an increase of $2.7 billion.

Pentagon to deploy pint-sized but lethal Switchblade drones

 

Seeking to reduce civilian casualties and collateral damage, the Pentagon will soon deploy a new generation of drones the size of model planes, packing tiny explosive warheads that can be delivered with pinpoint accuracy.

Errant drone strikes have been blamed for killing and injuring scores of civilians throughout Pakistan and Afghanistan, giving the U.S. government a black eye as it targets elusive terrorist groups. The Predator and Reaper drones deployed in these regions typically carry 100-pound laser-guided Hellfire missiles or 500-pound GPS-guided smart bombs that can reduce buildings to smoldering rubble.

The new Switchblade drone, by comparison, weighs less than 6 pounds and can take out a sniper on a rooftop without blasting the building to bits. It also enables soldiers in the field to identify and destroy targets much more quickly by eliminating the need to call in a strike from large drones that may be hundreds of miles away.

“This is a precision strike weapon that causes as minimal collateral damage as possible,” said William I. Nichols, who led the Army’s testing effort of the Switchblades at Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville, Ala.

The 2-foot-long Switchblade is so named because its wings fold into the fuselage for transport and spring out after launch. It is designed to fit into a soldier’s rucksack and is fired from a mortar-like tube. Once airborne, it begins sending back live video and GPS coordinates to a hand-held control set clutched by the soldier who launched it.

When soldiers identify and lock on a target, they send a command for the drone to nose-dive into it and detonate on impact. Because of the way it operates, the Switchblade has been dubbed the “kamikaze drone.”

The Obama administration, notably the CIA, has long been lambasted by critics for its use of combat drones and carelessly killing civilians in targeted strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia. In 2010, a United Nations official said the CIA in Pakistan had made the United States “the most prolific user of targeted killings” in the world.

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Dronetopia

U.S. Plans to Arm Italy’s Drones [WSJ]

WASHINGTON—The Obama administration plans to arm Italy’s fleet of Reaper drone aircraft, a move that could open the door for sales of advanced hunter-killer drone technology to other allies, according to lawmakers and others familiar with the matter.

The sale would make Italy the first foreign country besides Britain to fly U.S. drones armed with missiles and laser-guided bombs. U.S. officials said Italy intends initially to deploy the armed drones in Afghanistan.

Lawmakers who question the planned deal say the decision to “weaponize” Italy’s unarmed surveillance drones could make it harder for the U.S. to deny similar capabilities to other North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies, and set back efforts to urge sales limitations on other nations that make sophisticated drones such as Israel.

Advocates say such sales would enable trusted allies to conduct military missions on their own as well as help open markets for U.S. drone manufacturers.

The administration sent a confidential “pre-notification” to congressional panels in April detailing its plan to sell kits to Italy to arm up to six Reaper drones, which are larger, more-powerful versions of Predators.

The administration gave Congress a longer-than-usual 40 days to review the proposed sale. The period ended May 27 without a move to block the sale, according to congressional officials, clearing the way for the deal to move forward and for a formal notification of Congress as soon as this week.

Congress still could block the sale if it passes a joint resolution of disapproval in both the House and the Senate within 15 calendar days, though several members of Congress from both parties say such a move is unlikely.

[DRONESALE]

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Oops! Air Force Drones Can Now (Accidentally) Spy on You [wired]

As long as the Air Force pinky-swears it didn’t mean to, its drone fleet can keep tabs on the movements of Americans, far from the battlefields of Afghanistan, Pakistan or Yemen. And it can hold data on them for 90 days — studying it to see if the people it accidentally spied upon are actually legitimate targets of domestic surveillance.

The Air Force, like the rest of the military and the CIA, isn’t supposed to conduct “nonconsensual surveillance” on Americans domestically, according to an Apr. 23 instruction from the flying service. But should the drones taking off over American soil accidentally keep their cameras rolling and their sensors engaged, well … that’s a different story.

Collected imagery may incidentally include US persons or private property without consent,” reads the instruction (.pdf), unearthed by the secrecy scholar Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists. That kind of “incidental” spying won’t be immediately purged, however. The Air Force has “a period not to exceed 90 days” to get rid of it — while it determines “whether that information may be collected under the provisions” of a Pentagon directive that authorizes limited domestic spying.

In other words, if an Air Force drone accidentally spies on an American citizen, the Air Force will have three months to figure out if it was legally allowed to put that person under surveillance in the first place.

 

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